In a first of many studio visits, our team explored the colourful world of Montreal’s very own artist, Stikki Peaches. Entering an artist’s studio is like entering the most intimate spaces of their mind; you’re discovering their inspirations, their sketches, their experimentations, their different ideas slowly taking shape. Entering Stikki Peaches’ studio also meant entering an organised joyful mess: torn magazine pages on the floor, paint and sharpies spread all over, cardboard and decomposed wood panels, as well as dozens of artworks in progress with rock tunes playing on the radio.
This “creative playground”, as he likes to call it, is where Stikki Peaches creates the artworks you can find today in some of the biggest international art fairs and on the façades of numerous cities all over the world or, more recently, in Nike’s NYC headquarters. Every year in Montreal, we’re also delighted with one of his artworks during MURAL Festival, like with his 2016 giant “FUCK HATE” piece or with his paintings at the Galerie LeRoyer’s booth in the MURAL Art Fair, last year.
Photo Credit: Halopigg
The anonymous artist, surrounded with a mysterious aura, has used the slogan “What if Art Ruled the World?” for a long time, encouraging his audience to think about art’s place and power. The lucky ones who discover his artworks are led to stop, think and analyze the messages hidden behind these pictures of pop-culture mythical figures that portray the likes of Elvis Presley, Kate Moss, James Dean, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, or even Mozart.
Find out more about Stikki Peaches’ world through this interview accompanied by pictures of his studio:
Could you tell us about your background and when your journey as an artist began?
I fell into the art world at a very young age. I always drew, painted, played with crayons and different materials I could find at home. Then, as I began my studies, I quickly realised that being an artist would be very complicated! My parents, both being creatives working in the fashion industry, there were sketches and fabrics lying around and so, I naturally gravitated towards fashion design to channel my creativity.
When did you decide that it was what you wanted to do ?
In 2008, following some personal issues, I thought a lot about what I really wanted and what my ambitions were, which made me realize that it was an actual dream since my childhood. I understood that I was here today, but who knows what’ll happen tomorrow! So, I quit everything, I took time for myself and pasted my artworks in the streets.
Then, it was really in 2010 that it took on a whole new dimension. I didn’t have any career plans, the idea was simply to go back to what made me happy in life; enter my creative zone and paste my creations outside for the world to see. Some friends started telling me that my artworks were being featured in trending blogs from New York and Los Angeles. It was at this moment that I began to get some recognition.
Why did you start pasting your artworks in the streets? Have you ever done graffiti before?
I used to, when I was young, up until the age of 15 or 16. It was a way for me to vent my frustrations and to have fun, but it also brings a lot of problems.
Later, when I was looking for some visibility, it came back naturally. It was the best way to make people see my work. There weren’t many other ways to promote my work. At the time, I wasn’t using Facebook and Instagram wasn’t the powerful tool its become now. Not many people were taking pictures, street art wasn’t really documented then.
Who were some of the artists you liked early on?
I always liked Robert Rauschenberg’s work. His artworks included layers on layers, overlapping and creating a 3D effect. I always liked this complex, yet simple world recreated on a canvas.
In my work, all the layers have a story to tell. For example, the last layer is made of tattoos where I incorporate personal messages and critiques about today’s society, but with a positive and more satirical point of view.
Your work explores pop-culture icons and tattoo, can you tell us more about these and where this inspiration come from?
Fashion, icons and pop-culture were big parts of my childhood. When I create, I get inspired by what struck me as a child, references that I grew up with. Later, I dived into the tattoo culture. I love many different styles from different regions: from the Mexican culture to the Russian prison tattoos, and flash tattoos. I also like the symbolic side of a tattoo and I use it as a tool to tell messages through my artworks.
You are using a lot of different mediums in your artworks, can you explain us your creative process?
I like to work with multiple materials and different textures. I also like to work with everyday materials. For example, the wood panels I use are recycled wood I picked up on the streets. Recently, I’ve started working with tiles from different countries I’ve visited. Often handmade, each tile tells a story about the city or the country it’s from, with symbols and colours that represent the identity of the place. When I break them and incorporate them in my artworks, I reconstruct pieces of walls that crumble and unveil the images in my canvases. This is a style that I’ve been developing for a year now and that I am currently bringing to the next level for my next pieces.
What’s your favorite part?
There are many steps to creating a piece, but I’d say that when I decide the shape the wood panel is going to take on my canvas, that’s when I can really let off steam. I take a hammer and break everything! I hit the piece of wood until it resembles what I have in mind. It’s definitely the part I like the most, it allows me to unwind, Sledgehammer style!
What’s your point of view regarding the illegal pastings you still do in the streets, In parallel to your gallery work?
In 2008, there was nobody in the streets, the graffiti scene was very calm. The streets of Montreal was like a giant playground where I could play. The ones who knew very little about street art and the graffiti scenes were only seeing the illegal aspect. Today, I can paste a piece on a building’s façade and the next day, the owner will send me a message to thank me. Today, the Catch-22 question, illegal vs legal, brings a more blurry answer. The mindsets have changed, people are more open. MURAL Festival certainly has helped in that sense.
Today, you make a living from your art, with your gallery work and the murals you make in festivals all around the world. Will you ever stop spending nights outside pasting artworks in the streets?
Just yesterday, I went out to get some materials and, in the car, I was looking down the streets by the window and I could see so many beautiful walls and alleys. And I thought, “Summer better come quick!”. I have a box in my studio where I keep all my artworks ready to be pasted. When I travel or when the urge comes, I put a few of them in a bag and I go out. It’s something I love doing! I invest the same intensity that I put into my paintings. The only change is the wall with crumbling bricks or a vintage logo that substitute the canvas. For me, it’s just as important as my paintings, if not more… As long as I’ll be able to walk, you’ll have the chance to see my artworks in the streets!